Answered Prayer 1

We are often troubled because our prayers do not always seem to be answered as we would wish.

This, it seems to me, is how it works.

“God will either give us what we ask for in prayer or give us what we would have asked for if we knew everything He knows.”

Tim Keller

(Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy With God, Timothy Keller, Penguin, 2014 p228)

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Don’t Expect Perfection

It would have been so easy for the writers of Scripture to ‘airbrush’ out the faults of key biblical figures. In our western culture, we almost expect people to do that. Yet because of those ancient writers, we know the characters of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.. in fact pretty much everyone in Scripture, ‘warts and all’.  We see their strengths, but we also see their weaknesses and faults. They all had shortcomings, and those are often what turns these characters into real people. It makes their stories real and sometimes gritty.

Moses had his faults, but God still gifted and used him. David made dreadful mistakes, but God honoured him.

‘Solomon (son of David) showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the instructions given to him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.’ (1 Kings 3:3) (emphasis mine).

The mistakes of the followers of Jesus are all there in the New Testament story. They were all good people. They had good intentions. They aimed high, and God blessed them when they did, but they didn’t always completely get it right.

There have been times when I’ve messed up.  So all this gives me hope. Like you and me, every one of these people fell short of God’s standard and stood in need of His forgiveness – yet God blessed them when they repented. He blessed them when they aimed high. And He will bless you too.

In the same way that the deep blue of outer space emphasises the brightness of the moon, so the weakness of character of these giants of Scripture emphasises and throws into greater clarity the purity of Christ – the one who was tempted and persecuted, yet never fell short.

Don’t expect perfection in others. Don’t expect it in yourself. When you fall short, take responsibility – and move on.

Keep on praying.


Fathers and Sons – A personal story

I’m really privileged that my son and I occasionally go out together for a drink or a meal. Every one of those meetings is incredibly special. I always enjoy his company, and it’s particularly important to me because I never really had the opportunity to do that with my Dad. My Dad died several years before my son was born, so he never met his Grandad.

My father died around 40 years ago. If he had still been alive, tomorrow would have been his 100th birthday. A few days ago I was able to visit the Church yard where there is a small memorial to him. Years ago, I planted a small euonymous bush behind his memorial. It was important at the time because it was actually a cutting which I took from a plant which my Mum and Dad had given me when my wife and I moved into our first home. It was a special visit. It was worth the trip.

There were three special surprises. Firstly, the euonymous was still there, and it is flourishing. Second, the memorial is still there, looking pretty much as it did around 40 years ago. Thirdly, I realised that I still miss my Dad.

It turns out that there is no protocol to direct how we deal with a significant birthday for someone special who died so long time ago. Tomorrow, there won’t be a 100th birthday party. No celebration. I will remember him quietly. I suppose nowdays we might say I’ll be mindful of him.

Tonight happens to be one of those nights when I’m meeting my son for a drink. The timing has never been more special. I’m going to cherish this moment. Father and son. And probably, I’ll raise a glass to my Dad.

‘I am the LORD your God’

‘I am the Lord your God.’

We read these words a number of times in Scripture. I wonder whether you have ever really stopped to think about what that short sentence actually means. It’s so easy to overlook the extraordinary power and majesty which they describe.

I have been leading worship for years. A lot of years. I have something of an itinerant ministry, which means that when I turn up at a Church to preach, I will also have the guitar ready to lead at least part of the service with music.

So a couple of nights ago, I turned up at a meeting, it was quite normal for me to be asked to start with a song and a prayer. It wasn’t a huge meeting, but it was a public meeting. No problem.

So there we were, gathered together, ready to start.

We started with a prayer. I brought a verse of Scripture. Exodus 20:1-2. The verse contains the words, ‘I am the LORD your God.’ I spoke a few words. Then, we were silent before the Lord.

Then, I started singing. The people joined me, praising God, singing a familiar song.

I noticed two things. First, I had started us off in the wrong key. It wasn’t wildly out. It was ok for most of the ladies, but a struggle for the men. As the worship leader I had accidentally set myself a huge challenge. The second thing I realised was that in the heat of a summers evening, my guitar had become horribly out of tune.

We kept going. I used the guitar as little as possible, and did my best. But there’s no question. I hadn’t prepared properly. I hadn’t checked the guitar properly. I should have done better. Much better.

Later, I reflected on what had happened. It was as if God was saying to me, ‘Don’t be over confident – don’t forget that this is not about you. It’s about me.’

It’s only now, a few days on, that I have been reminded of those six words.

‘I am the LORD your God.’

I praise you for who you are. You are the LORD my God.
Lord, forgive me for the times when I do things in my own strength.

The times when I forget to rely on you.
Forgive me for the moments when I don’t use the gifts which you have given me as well as I should. Forgive me when I forget who you are.
Forgive me for the moments when I act as if it’s all about me.
Thank you for the guiding touch of your Holy Spirit. Thank you for allowing me to draw close to you.
More than a friend. More than a brother.
You are the LORD my God.